There may come a time in which we can step into a simulation of days long past, go right into it as if walking into just another room. I’m thinking more in terms of a Star Trek-style ‘Holodeck’ than actually ‘hit 88mph!’ time travel. Upon entering a special room a person is immersed in a wall-to-wall simulation of a different place and time entirely. Think of it, being able to witness the signing of the declaration of independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address or enter a Jazz Speak-easy in the roaring 20’s. For now all we really have are movies, and in my opinion, not that restrictive of windows into the recent past.
I muse on these things to ponder, however; in Iconic director Martin Scorsese’s latest, Hugo (In 3D! more surprisingly Kid-friendly!), there is no time travel per say. It is set in a different time period, yes, 1920’s Paris, but the characters are static to the period. The title character is especially static to his place in time, tied to both his place in the train station and social status. He was orphaned a few years ago and must remain in the only place he can call home, the train station where his Uncle took him shortly after his father died. This builds the the background of the ye old familiar Dickensian character arc within the story. The boy without anything to his name goes on an adventure and finds more than he could’ve ever imagined. However, Scorsese infuses this yarn with his unconditional love for his art. All of the actors, Newcomer Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz from Kick-Ass fame, Sir Ben Kingsley and even Borat (Sasha Baron Cohen) turn in fine work here, but as with all the great directors it is Scorsese who is the real star; who guides us along with a steady deft hand, subtly using 3D imagery (the best use of it for stories like this) for the ride.
I don’t want to give away the main reveal of one of the main characters tie to early film history, I seldom want to give away the game for you, but if you are a fan of Scorsese as much as I am it’ll come as genuinely organic to his substantially grand resume. Especially that of his efforts to preserve early works of cinema, before the reels and storytellers of early cinema are forever permanently darkened. Here is a director, who has nothing more to prove to either his peers or audience, who is just having the time of his life doing what he has always done at the highest level of his profession. In his other masterful works, i.e. Taxi Driver, Ragging Bull, Goodfellas, he dealt with the pressures of society on people who only wish to be their own person. They come-up with an identity lashing out, often violently. With Hugo he is going for a more lighter affair … he wants to demonstrate the old saying “What is past is prolog”, if one does not appreciate the past than one does not have a future, etc.
This is the second American made movie last year directed by a directorial legend set in Paris, the other ‘Midnight in Paris’ brings me back to time-travel pondering; for now we have films. We cherish a few unforgettable ones as our favorites/bests, some might be from our lifetime, some might be before our time, others might be well before our parents or grand-parents time. History textbooks might give us the names and the dates of the recent past, but movies give us the ‘feel’ of those times. What were people thinking, how were they living, what did they talk like? etc. Films are our best Dilorians, where the memories of the past move at 24 frames/Sec, for now it’ll do…for now.
Score: 8/10 (You should have seen it in theaters and even paid for the 3D, but Blu-ray should not lessen the experience any)